Island Time: South Pacific Futurism From a Contemporary Aotearoa Perspective

Published

In this text, which moves between a personal account and a Māori understanding of time, Jessica “Coco” Hansell envisions a future in Aotearoa (New Zealand) that could simultaneously be the precolonial past and the future, where legendary figures move in the plasma ocean with spacecraft canoes.

Article published in The Funambulist 24 (July-August 2019) Futurisms. Click here to access the rest of the issue.

When I was 11 years old I sat in a support-group style circle, on wooden chairs. I was silently facing my four year-old self (rowdy epileptic with long hair down to my butt), my eight year-old self (a short shaved undercut who wore a blue ski jacket every day) and my form as of that moment (some vanilla mid-length preteen blend of the two). There was another girl; she was a lot older than all of us. I couldn’t tell if she was an adult. She didn’t smile or say much, I remember she wore a hoodie, and I envied her pierced ears.

I’m wearing a hoodie and hoop earrings as I write this. I also don’t smile excessively, so all signs point to her being the sloppy final-form I embody today. It was a strange, quick and formative dream. One I return to whenever eurocentric descriptions around time aren’t really doing it for me, which is often. I think about time, a lot. And yet I’ve been told by many I am not interested in time enough.

While a slab of the planet is happily sweating under summer, in Aotearoa (New Zealand) we are currently surrendering to winter. The sky is crisp but short-lived. In certain cities like Tāmaki Makaurau (Tāmaki of a Hundred Lovers, or Auckland) the sun still loiters a little. However a thrifty tough-love for uninsulated homes, cyclonic hangovers from the South Pacific ocean and drizzly morning drives to underpaying jobs make it brutal enough. The colonial dominant view of the British means a perpetual robbery of the holistic interpretations of Mori. There is a constant reclaiming, returning. A resentful epiphany is always afoot growing up Indigenous in any cityscape, our roots constantly excavated (rightfully stolen back in the night when the Gods are in our favor). Winter is no exception, or more specifically Matariki; the Māori new year which kicks off amid the frosty clutches of June.

Matariki is the nine-star Pleiades cluster which appears in the night sky annually. According to the Maramataka (the Māori lunar calendar), the reemerging of Matariki concludes our old lunar year and marks a fresh one. Crop health was predicted during Matariki and it’s still considered a time of renewal, to reflect upon our past while appraising our future prospects, both with equal intensity. I love how this time lands awkwardly in the meaningless midriff of a Gregorian calendar. The visceral seasonal shift is genuinely felt by the body, the sky and seedlings in the dirt. Change is undeniable, whereas the bored mathematical shrugs of January have a lot to answer for.